Bhagavad Gita series – part 34:

We now begin our discussion on Chapter III of Bhagavad Gita consisting of 43 verses. This chapter is called “karma yoga” or the path of action. In this chapter, Krishna underlines the importance of performing prescribed actions. He also analyses the effects of performing and non-performing karmas. Karmas are classified into two groups, the first causing bondage and another leading to liberation. In spite of Krishna’s holy sermons, Arjuna remains as a perplexed man and seeks further clarifications from the Lord. Arjuna asks Krishna “Oh! Janardana! When you consider wisdom is superior to action, Oh! Keshava! Why do you want to engage me in doing awful actions? By your ambiguous speeches, you are confusing my intelligence. Please advise me decisively, the one thing by which I will achieve the highest good” (verses 1 and 2). Krishna told Arjuna in II.48 “take refuge in balanced wisdom” and this apparently appears to be the cause for Arjuna seeking clarifications from Krishna. Arjuna’s mind remains confused in spite of Krishna’s preaching. Krishna said that those who perform actions for the sake of benefit of its fruits are in miserable condition.

Fruits of actions mostly accrue to the body. The point that Krishna drives home is that one should not attach importance to the body that is susceptible to decay, degeneration and death. Instead, Krishna advises to pursue the Supreme knowledge by developing the highest level of consciousness to realise the Brahman within. There could be another reason for Arjuna’s confusion. Knowledge cannot be attained without engaging body in actions. But one should not get engrossed in such bodily actions, as that would lead to addiction and subsequent miseries. This is what Arjuna refers to as ambiguity in the speech of the Lord. This is an occasion to explain the importance of the mind. Unless, the mind of the disciple is attentive to the teachings of his master, the substance of the teachings cannot be grasped properly.

What Krishna said in chapter II was “live, but do not live in it”. Live means live to perform one’s karmas and do not live in it means do not get attached to the actions looking for fruits of the karmas. In other words, Krishna said that do your duty and leave the rest to Him. It is probably due to the inertia of the mind that Arjuna could not grasp the subtle teachings of Krishna. Arjuna is well known for his intelligence and quick actions. The circumstances in which he was placed (the battle ground) could be one of the reasons for his inattentive mind. Arjuna’s mind was full of compassion for his masters and relatives who are bound to perish in the battle as Arjuna was so confident of his abilities. Now Arjuna asks Krishna one final advise from Him to act decisively.